“Hey Google, turn on the lights…turn off the TV…set a timer for 20 minutes…play music that will calm down my cats!” Those are just some of the things I say to our Google Nest Hub, which has made pandemic living and working from home a bit easier for me and my boyfriend.
This smart home device basically turns our studio apartment into a smart home by connecting most of our smart products, like our Hue lights, TV, and Bluetooth speaker. I’m so used to the convenience of telling Google to turn things on and off for me that I regret buying anything that isn’t a smart device to connect to our hub, like our humidifier. Sure, it sounds a bit lazy, but anything that makes life easier these days works for me. And, if you just need a good laugh (who doesn’t these days), you can say “Hey Google, tell me a joke,” or “sing me a song,” or “what do you think of Siri?”
If Google isn’t your preference, there are a few other smart home hubs that you can use in your NYC apartment like Amazon’s Echo with Alexa. In addition to connecting your apartment’s smart devices, you can create an intercom-like system to speak to family members or roommates (if you have multiple devices), set alarms, check the weather, and ask those questions you’re too embarrassed to Google.
There are several models of these devices, so if you want a speaker but not a camera, there’s an option for you. And, using a smart home hub is less expensive than integrating a smart-home system into your apartment.
So, if your apartment needs to be techified, or you just want Siri or Alexa to be your personal assistant while you work from home, here are five smart home hubs to choose from.
The lowdown: Google Nest Hub has Google Assistant integrated so you can connect your Google account, ask questions, set alarms, reminders, watch videos, and play music. It’s an all-in-one smart home hub that lets you control smart-home devices like Hue Lights and devices that can connect to the SmartThings app. It also has voice recognition so if you live with other people, it will know how to respond to you personally.
What sets it apart? Well, it’s connected to Google after all, and you can also play music and videos on YouTube. You can add a Nest subscription to get alerts and view footage from your other Nest devices for a fully integrated system.
How much does it cost? The basic Google Nest Hub costs $90, but there are other models, like the Nest Hub Max that has a camera, which costs $229, and the Google Home Mini that doesn’t have a screen, which goes for $49.
Who is it for? If you want a smart hub that does just about everything for an affordable price. Or if you prefer Google Assistant over Alexa or Siri.
The lowdown: Amazon’s Echo has Alexa as your personal assistant to answer your questions, play music from streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify, play news, check the weather, and control your smart-home devices.
What sets it apart? You can play synchronized music across all of your Echo devices and there’s Drop In, which lets you speak to other people in your apartment through their devices. You can also buy items from Amazon through Alexa.
How much does it cost? Amazon has several of these devices including the Echo, which doesn’t have a screen, for $80, and the Echo Show 8, which has a screen and can do video calling, for $130.
Who is it for? If you want the option to integrate your other Nest devices or you want your Amazon shopping to be even easier.
The lowdown: Apple’s HomePod is their first speaker, and it does much more than just play music. It has Siri built in, so you can send Intercom messages to speakers in other rooms, control your smart-home devices, ask questions, and connect your TV and other entertainment devices to play through its speaker.
What sets it apart? The speaker has high-fidelity audio that adapts to the room to optimize sound quality.
How much does it cost? The HomePod mini, which doesn’t have the spatial awareness capability, costs $99, and the HomePod costs $299.
Who is it for? If you’re looking for a solid speaker that also controls your smart-home devices or you’re a die-hard Apple fan.
The lowdown: The Portal’s main function is to video call your friends and family using Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp, but it doesn’t stop there. It has Alexa, so you can do tasks similar to Amazon’s Echo, like play music, check cameras around the house, control your smart-home devices, set timers, and get weather updates. It also functions as a digital photo frame.
What sets it apart? There’s a Story Time feature that allows others to tell stories through the screen with music, animation, and augmented reality effects.
How much does it cost? The Portal Mini, which has an eight-inch screen, costs $129, the Portal, which has a 10-inch screen, is $179, and the Portal+, which has an almost 16-inch display, goes for $279.
Who is it for? If you want to control your smart-home devices and have a unique way to connect with your friends and family during the pandemic.
The lowdown: Lenovo’s Smart Displays have Google Assistant and you can play music, watch videos, ask questions, make video calls, and control other smart-home devices. You can also ask Google to show your agenda for the day, set timers, and look up recipes.
What sets it apart? The device is more aesthetically pleasing than some of the other smart hubs—there’s also a privacy shutter and microphone mute button if privacy is a concern.
How much does it cost? The seven-inch display costs $100, the eight-inch display costs $200. Who is it for? If you want an all-around smart display that also looks good in your apartment.
Who is it for? If you want an all-around smart display that also looks good in your apartment.
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